The Boston Celtics know the cost of losing a crucial rotation player in the postseason. As good of a reminder as good as any stood opposite of them at Staples Center on Sunday. Injuries to Rajon Rondo, who contributed crucial bench playmaking in the Lakers’ win over Boston, derailed the Celtics’ 2011 and 2013 bids at deep playoff runs.
Now Kemba Walker is feeling the pain in his left knee. Sunday marked his 10th missed game of the season, though the first came due to his scary neck injury in Denver that turned out to be minor. The next three were due to the flu, his knee pain dates back to January 18, when he missed a game against Phoenix.
He contacted Boston’s medical staff before that game to report severe pain, which resulted in a negative MRI. Since, he missed three games to start February, played in the all-star game, then exited the break requiring a knee drain and injections. Brad Stevens said his absence would not be long-term, and Walker pushed to play Sunday, but Boston’s remaining cautious.
Boston is focused on restrengthening his knee, so it would stand to reason he’ll miss more games before the Celtics return home Saturday to play the Rockets. In the meantime, they lost by three to the Lakers in spite of Jayson Tatum’s best performance as a pro and immense help on both ends from Jaylen Brown.
Check out the Garden Report with CLNS Media live from LA below on Walker, and player reaction after the loss.
The Garden Report with Nick Gelso and Josue Pavon — The Celtics cannot afford to lose Kemba Walker in the playoffs
Jayson Tatum: “It’s a step in the right direction ... I still have a long way to go.”
Tatum notched his best performance as a pro to push the Celtics through second quarter struggles into a commanding third-quarter lead. Anthony Davis reached his level in the second half, spurring Tatum to humbly recount the afternoon as simply a step in his growth. LeBron called him a problem after on social media.
Gordon Hayward: “We’re going to have to be better playing off the double.”
Hayward missed key looks inside and out, most costly a full-court layup try with the Celtics ahead and under 1:00 remaining. As Tatum shot 1-for-3 under pressure in the final frame, Hayward only contributed 10 points on 5-of-15 shooting in the game. His contributions off Tatum will be crucial as long as Walker is out and Tatum draws doubles.
Jaylen Brown: “Brad told me (defending Anthony Davis) was a challenge he told me he wanted to see me step up to.”
Brown fronted Davis and other times LeBron James in one of his best defensive performances as a pro. He also drained a late go-ahead corner three and scored 20 points. Even with a second-half surged that keyed a Lakers victory, Brown helped Boston hold Davis to 10-of-25 shooting.